Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ogionsa, Day 1

Ogionsa Mikoshi

In the weeks leading up to Ogionsa, several of the mikoshi (portable shrines) were placed on display in Tenmonkan and other areas around Kagoshima. This one is in front of Lotteria.

(Tenmonkan Park was completely rebuilt this year. It used to be much smaller, cramped and ragged-looking. This is the first time for me to visit the new park.)

Ogionsa is a 2-day festival held in Kagoshima, Kyushu, in July. This year it was on the 19th and 20th. Opening ceremonies were held at Tenmonkan Park from 5 to 7 PM, and included amateur and professional acts.

(School kids preparing for their upcoming performance.)

According to one source, Ogionsa was originally hosted by local merchants as kind of a marketing scheme featuring a parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) through Tenmonkan. However, since the name is similar to Gionsa, the festival held in Kyoto a week earlier, Ogionsa has been linked to Gionsa by association.

(Dining area.)

Tables were set up at the entrance of the park to sell shochu, beer and packages of yaki soba. The beer was $3 a glass, but the shochu was $2. The glasses were smaller, and the shochu was diluted with ice water, but it was still tasty and packed a punch. A dining area was to one side, and they had folding chairs in front of the main stage. I'd estimate maybe 200 people in attendance when I arrived, but possibly double that when I left at 7 PM. Initially, I was thinking of staying at home. I'd walked through Tenmonkan on my way home after work, and caught a little of the activities being held in front of Lotteria and the 7-11, and it wasn't quite enough to motivate me to watch the rest of it. However, as I was working on some videos for the blog, I heard bells and drums outside the apartment, indicating that some group was carrying a mikoshi in the neighborhood. By the time I finished the editing, the sound was fading away. I grabbed 2 of my cameras and ran outside, but the sound was gone. I headed for the closest park, but there was nothing happening there. It was now close to 5 PM, so I went through Tenmonkan, and continued to Tenmonkan Park on the other side of the shopping district.

I got to the park just as the taiko group (the one I'd seen in front of the 7-11) was wrapping up. They were followed by the school kids wearing the "octopus man" masks (the video is below), and then some traditional Japanese music singing acts.

The early audience.

Everyone likes wearing yukata.

The MC.

Octopus men and octopus boys.

The MC interviewed the two main "princesses" of Sunday's mikoshi parade. They were scheduled to ride in one of the pull carts during the main event, and they asked the audience to come to Tenmonkan to watch for them.

Next came two performance acts. One was Juggler Higachu (watch his 2-part video below), and the other was this guy. I never caught his name, but I guess he's a Chinese acrobat based in Tokyo. Both of them were very good. The acrobat had a four-part act: first, dancing in the above costume while spinning a staff; second, dancing while snap-changing his masks; third, snapping flowers out of audience member's hands with a whip; fourth, a balancing act (watch his video below). Both of my cameras were low on battery. I wasn't expecting to video anything today, so I hadn't recharged them. Both batteries eventually died on me, the second one just before the end of the acrobat's final act. Should have brought the third camera. Sigh.

(Enka act.)

At 7, as I was getting ready to leave, I heard the sounds of bells and drums again, and a group of 30-40 people arrived, pulling one of the big mikoshi into the park. I'd like to think it was the one in my neighborhood that prompted me out of the apartment. Overall, I had a lot of fun. And I made sure to recharge the batteries as soon as I got back home in preparation for the events on Sunday.

Tako Dance: Youtube link

Higachu Part 1: Youtube link

Higachu Part 2: Youtube link

Acrobat: Youtube link

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